- Craig Haubert, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- With a good deal of excellent talent in the states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia this year, the good turnout for the Nike Football Training Camp was no surprise Friday. It was a warm, clear day and the practice fields were littered with top 2009 prospects, as many of the projected big-name players expected to attend competed. The camp also featured a few pleasant surprises.
Party of One
While the camp had a fairly deep pool of overall talent, the quarterbacks were not a great group. One clearly stood out, West Virginia commit Tajh Boyd (Hampton, Va./Phoebus); the ESPN 150 Watch List prospect took home MVP honors for his position.
He displayed many of the things we had seen on film when evaluating him. He was smooth in his drops and quickly got set. He had a fairly compact, quick release. He threw a tight spiral and had good velocity. The obvious knock on Boyd is his lack of size, as he seems to be just pushing 6-foot-1. He is athletic though and showed good feet and ballhandling skills going through the agility drills early in camp. During one-on-ones, he displayed good touch accuracy.
Boyd is a positive for West Virginia fans as a future without Pat White is quickly approaching.
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey (Saint Matthews, S.C./Calhoun County) wasn't expected but he showed and performed very well. He has eye-catching size and is a big target in the passing game.
He really caught the attention of on-lookers when the camp went to one-on-ones. He displayed wonderful hands, usually plucking the ball out of the air and rarely ever letting the pigskin get close to his frame. He did not display elite speed, but he did have a deceptive ability to get downfield. His big frame and long wingspan made it tough for many of the defensive backs he went up against. Jeffrey showed, impressed and took home MVP honors for the wide receivers.
From Here to Eternity
No, I am not talking about the film -- and if you know that reference, you probably feel as old as I do for mentioning it. What I am talking about is the freakish wingspan of defensive end Malliciah Goodman (Florence, S.C./West Florence).
We were interested in checking him out because we liked what we saw on film. In person, he physically blew us away. I can not remember too many people I have seen at the high school, college or professional level with arms like his. From his big trapezius muscle to his long arms down to his monster-size hands, he was unbelievable in his physical setup.
Those natural tools make him a dangerous player, especially because he knows how to use his reach to his advantage. During some pass-rushing drills, he would club and rip his way by the blocker. He looks like he still needs to grow into his frame. He never looked overly fluid on film and struggled some in agility drills. He has wonderful upside though and reaffirmed to us that he was a nice pickup for Clemson.
He won the camp MVP for defensive line, but that puzzled us some; we never saw him partake in the camp one-on-one drills with the offensive line while we were scouting that drill. That was a bit of a disappointment, but you can not argue with his ability and upside.
Tight End To Be?
One of this class' more interesting prospects is ESPN 150 Watch List athlete Logan Thomas (Lynchburg, Va./Brookville). A debate rages about where he will play in college, and the athlete himself thinks he's more of a wide receiver at the college level. After seeing him in person though, there is little doubt he will be a tight end / H- back player at the college level.
He has great size and monster hands. He is a long-limbed kid with really long legs. At one point one of the camps, coaches referred to him as "Baby Tony Gonzalez" and it was not as much funny as it was true; Thomas actually resembles a younger version of the Kansas City Chiefs tight end. He has good hands and can be weapon in the passing game, but at the college level, he'll very likely be listed as a tight end and not a wide receiver.
Sean Taylor II?
One of the most physically-impressive prospects was Under Armour All-American Damario Jeffery (Columbia, S.C.). He was tall with a tight, muscular build and was reminiscent of the late Washington Redskins safety.
Like with Thomas, there is some debate where Jeffery will fit best at the college level. We feel eventually he will physically develop into an outside linebacker, but he worked out with safeties and it is not very hard to envision him there either at the college level. He looked good going through agility drills and was physical in coverage. He had some rough spots, as he looked to be working out in cleats that were a too big. He also lined up against the very good receivers during one-on-one drills and struggled.
Jeffery, however, is not a cover corner. Instead, he's an athletic, punishing safety type who competed very well while being put in some tough situations. Jeffery remained one of the elite prospects in this area of the country. Also, the comparisons to Taylor do not fall short on him; he said Taylor was one of his favorite players.
While Boyd represented very well, two other West Virginia commits were in attendance and had good showings. One was Under Armour All-American Logan Heastie (Chesapeake, Va. / Great Bridge), who looked good in agility drills and ran good routes during one-on-ones. He had good hands and caught pretty much everything thrown to him, but he struggled at times to not let the ball into his body.
Heastie was one of the best receivers in attendance and could be a key piece who helps West Virginia become a more explosive passing offense. The other future Mountaineer in attendance was Boyd's high school teammate Dominik Davenport (Hampton, Va./Phoebus). He lacks ideal size, but during one-on-one pass rush he used it to his advantage by staying low and bull-rushing blockers.
• Corner Lex Butler (Anderson, S.C./Westside) had a good showing. With adequate height he displayed good quickness and held his own during one-on-ones.
• Highly-touted offensive tackle prospect Xavier Nixon (Fayetteville, N.C./Jack Britt) needs to keep filling out his frame, but he looked good in pass protection. He used his hands well and displayed good feet. However, he was outshined by a rising junior Robert Crisp (Chapel Hill, N.C.). The local 2010 prospect caught my eye with his size and did very well in the one-on-one pass-rush drills. The camp MVP offensive linemen made it clear he is a prospect to watch in next year's class.
• A record setter was in attendance, as Virginia Tech commit David Wang (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) reportedly set the record for the power ball in testing. He is a short, squatty defensive tackle prospect but obviously has good power and explosion.
• Thickly-built North Carolina commit Justin Dixon (Smithfield, N.C./Smithfield-Selma) stood out among the linebackers, taking home the MVP honors for that position.
• Another future Tar Heel who had a good showing was defensive tackle Jared McAdoo (Chapel Hill, N.C.). He displayed good feet going through the agility drills.
• Tight ends were not very well represented, though South Carolina commit Justice Cunningham (Pageland, S.C./Central) had a good showing. He was a good-sized kid with a thick lower body and showed good hands.
ESPN television is currently in production on a special that will profile the top prospects at the Nike and Elite 11 training camps. The information used in this article was gathered as part of the television production process.